Dura lex sed lex. The law law is hard but it is the law.
The strictest law sometimes becomes the severest injustice.
Who would think that in the Philippines, “lying” could cost a student everything he had worked so hard for and even worse, lose that prized diploma just when it’s within his arms’ reach? The student, Aldrin Jeff Cudia found it out the hard way. Accused of lying about why he was late for class by two minutes, Cudia was tried and found guilty by a court of his peers at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) and was dishonorably discharged a few weeks short of his graduation. He would have graduated among the top 10 of Siklab Diwa Class of 2014, a Salutatorian from some accounts, but a dream that instead turned into a nightmare in two fleeting minutes.
PMA Honor Code
The PMA is an elite school, where only the best high school graduates could get in. Still, passing its entrance exam is one thing but surviving the Academy’s rigid program, training and curriculum is yet another thing. At the end of the program, only the most fit and firmly resolved make it through graduation.
It is well worth the cadets’ hard work and dedication for as soon as they graduate, they have a bright future to look forward to and a career that can make them famous and influential. Many of the country’s top officials are PMA graduates, among them: Former President Fidel V. Ramos, former Senator Rodolfo Biazon, Sen.Gregorio Honasan, former Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, former Senator and PNP Chief Panfilo Lacson.
At the Academy, cadets are required to follow an Honor Code, which censures with extreme penalty lying, cheating, stealing and condoning people who commit these infractions. Cadet Cudia’s reason for being late for class was not corroborated by the operational research instructor, Monica Costales, who supposedly kept Cadet Cudia in class that caused him to be tardy. Costales gave three different accounts of the incident but later admitted she could no longer recount the exact details of the incident. In the end, her initial testimony that she dismissed her class on time prevailed.
Cadet Cudia with the help of his family and a sympathetic media mounted a persistent effort to appeal his case, first, to President Aquino whose executive power could have brought this embattled youth a new leash on life. But the President remanded the case to the Academy for review by the Cadet Review and Appeals Board (CRAB). Unfortunately for Cudia, the review board affirmed the honor committee’s ruling on his case. Although the review board was forced to reconvene on account of the new witness, Commander Junjie Tabuada, head of the PMA Department of Naval Warfare, who claimed that the honor committee process had been anomalous, the guilty verdict on Cudia was reaffirmed. In addition, the review board recommended that Tabuada be charged as it concluded that he perjured himself when he claimed that the initial vote of 8-1 (8 in favor of dismissal and 1 against) was changed to 9-0 because the cadet who voted against dismissal was pressured to do it, a claim the cadet involved has denied.
Desperate, Cudia turned to the final arbitrator, the Supreme Court. He urged the high court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) or status quo ante order (SQAO) to prevent the implementation of his dismissal and to order the transmittal of his case records to the PMA’s Cadet CRAB. But the Supreme Court denied Cudia’s first request and instead, ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Military Academy to comment on Cudia’s petition within 10 days. Until then, Cadet Cudia can only pray and hope for the best. But with the testimonials and circumstances surrounding his story, his chances even with the high court don’t look too great. For what’s the likelihood of these 2 people, Miss Costales, his teacher and the cadet member of the honor committee that originally voted against his dismissal to change their stories according to his version?
These days, Aldrin Jeff Cudia and his family have pretty much accepted the fact that he would no longer has a future career in the military and neither does he have intentions of pursuing one. Their only wish now is to get his diploma and be honorably discharged so he can move on with his life.
But it’s easier said than done. Being honorably discharged, that is. For to do that is to reverse the guilty verdict handed down by the PMA honor committee and CRAB. To do so is to negate the Honor Code that cadets have been sternly warned against violating inside and outside the Academy. To do so is to establish a dangerous precedent…
“The law is hard but that it is the law,” that’s how it goes. Break the law and suffer the consequence. It cannot be bent to favor a person, an organization or a class for whatever reason. It is blind to all other things but the language of that law.
The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.
What happened to Cadet Cudia has put the PMA Honor Code under extreme public scrutiny. Having just dealt the severest penalty to a very promising cadet, this Honor Code has been widely criticized for its hypocrisy as scores of PMA graduates who became public officials or occupied positions of influence in the government, had been among the country’s most corrupt officials, looting the government coffers of money that should have otherwise been spent on the lowly soldiers and the Filipinos.
It is high time for the Academy to revisit the Honor Code. Not all crimes are equal. You don’t cut off a child’s hands because he was caught stealing candy as the Muslim law would have it. While an honor code is good to have, it should not be an agent of injustice . As Greek philosopher, Plato put it, “No law or ordinance is mightier than understanding.”
President Aquino should give back this young lad’s future by exercising his executive pardon. This power has been given to him for a good reason. To use it in Cudia’s case is an exercise of justice as it is of compassion and understanding.